I am doing this thing I should have done a while back and converting all Twitter embeds on this blog into blockquotes. It’s been more horrifying than you’d think.
I post a lot of thoughts, and sometimes some of these are inspired by thoughts from the Twitter braintrust.
Foolishly, I cited/quoted these tweets using an embed (basically using a coding pipeline to broadcast the original tweet, rather than a copy or screenshot), trusting in the lasting power of Twitter infrastructure. Like, if journalists can construct entire articles by embedding other people’s tweets and no writing of their own, then surely I’ll be fine… right????
Fast forward to the year 2023, when Twitter is now “formerly known as Twitter”, and people are deleting their accounts and archive in protest. Realising the vulnerability of the situation, I am slowly working to archive everything back to my website. (well, I had always been doing this, but I had also always been dawdling)
What I forgot to do was archive my embeds.
So here I am scrambling back 17 pages of blogging history to preserve my citations. Fortunately there wasn’t too many. Unfortunately… there was some damage that made me realise we live in an online hellscape and that I am maybe perhaps traumatised by linkrot.
A couple of tweets – really profound ideas – are gone. From Colleen Doran and a musician (@fatherrich_), whose real name I may never recover, who said something about how one’s relationship to art changes when it becomes income, the difficulty of a freelance life, how capitalism skews your enjoyment of art into instruments of clout, losing sight of your identity and original reason for being an artist.
Their exact words? Gone. Dead. Deleted.
In a way I am frustrated and annoyed, because this is knowledge, ideas, a personhood. Their words provoked my post on craft and making work that is for yourself. And I can’t give them proper credit anymore.
On the other hand, I can understand if somebody wants to delete their old tweets indiscriminately; afterall, on that site, a certain nuclear cleaning is necessary to protect oneself from bad faith actors. There are some spelunkers who go quite deep into Twitter archives to dig up an irrelevant careless tweet that someone wrote as a teen to cancel them now as an adult.
I have never done that because I hadn’t bothered, and I don’t think I have anything that’s worth bringing up other than xDD teenage rand0mNeSS!!! But it’s okay. Elon did it for me already (apparently a lot of tweets pre-2014 are broken).
You know how Twitter loves to prop itself up as the “public square of ideas” “the place where people discuss debate discourse” (or something to that effect)? Well, it’s impossible to do that when the structure is imploding and the culture is bad!! And it’s worse when you’re like me who wants to philosophise and navel-gaze on my island rather than the rowdy town square.
I have encountered linkrot during my time online, but I hadn’t been personally confronted by it in this way. It’s like watching something die in front of me. Like yeah, it’s dramatic to say this, but when the thing that is dead is a person’s ideas and the links to community, and their brief connection to my own thinking, it does provoke a kind of grief.
People say everything stays on the internet forever But more and more, as we all move away from the idealistic Eden of Web 1.0 into the fallen world, I don’t believe in that idea anymore. Or at least, I don’t believe it’s a universal truth. Dust in the wind.
I cannot imagine the anguish of journalists or readers or historians from the year 2030 who are accessing an article that is 90% Twitter embeds. Unbelievable. :/
For the tweets that hadn’t yet died and I could preserve:
Twitter threads is the worst way of writing down anything ever and I pity anyone who has to archive/convert it in another format.
And I can say this. I can say this now for the 30 tweets I had to convert into text (which is an essay by itself) for my blog. I can say this for the 100s of tweets documenting the process of making my graphic novels that I have to eventually preserve on my website.
In the halcyon days when we all believed that Twitter was forever, threading was such a fun and breezy way to post and share thinking/research/knowledge. But now… advice from veteran artists and authors and experts who posted everything on Twitter between its peak to its death and then quit are now nowhere to be found. (Not like it would have been easy to search for the thread anyway even if extant, not even in the original poster’s timeline.) Plus there’s almost no incentive for anyone who’s not as crazy as me to recover their own important tweets. So every thread is a ticking time bomb.
It’s kinda making me retroactively (and unfairly) annoyed at everyone who put their thoughts only in threads and not produce a copy elsewhere. I am angry at my Past Self for not making a blog version of my documentation while I was tweeting. I am miffed that I have to constantly be vigilant and preserve things, which would be fine, except there’s no simple way to preserve another person’s thought.
Thank god I had the foresight to have already transferred my more important text-only, industry-advice tweets to this blog. That’s one less project.
I need to fix up the design of my blockquotes. It’s quite ugly lol.edit: fixed
Reimena Yee is a graphic novelist, artist and flamingo enthusiast.
She writes and illustrates quite a few webcomics and graphic novels. When not making books, she lulls away her time with essays on craft, life and experiences in the publishing industry. Some of her thoughts of art and life are rather unstructured and will evolve over time as this blog matures, as they should be.
Currently committed to being Alexander the Great's death doula. Is a nerd for all things spooky and historical.
Melbourne / Kuala Lumpur
French Book Tour, January 2024